Game: Mirror's Edge
Genre: FPS Platform
Game Version: 1.0.1
After it was announced, I was never sure what to think about Mirror's Edge. The idea of a first person game focusing on movement rather than combat sounded interesting, but plenty of good ideas have turned out bad before. On top of that, the developers' only recent experience seemed to be the multiplayer only Battlefield games and it was being published by EA. It could go either way; a huge success creating a modern classic or a completely unplayable failure. As it happens, it went neither way, and we've ended up with an unusual concept turned into a middle-of-the-road game, even though it does do several things very well.
The game is set in a dystopian future where all forms of communication are closely monitored. Anyone wanting to transfer information from one place to another secretly has to employ a runner. Illegally, of course. Runners carry the messages across rooftops to avoid being seen. You play a runner called Grace, but unfortunately, you don't get to do much message carrying, since fairly early on you get involved in a conspiracy and end up caught up in a lot of police chases. Frankly, the plot is a bit dull, mostly due to the fact that you don't get to know the characters enough to really care about any of it. The characters certainly don't show a great deal of personality to attach you to them in the very brief time the game lasts. The plot is basically just an excuse to get you into a lot of situations where you're running while people shoot at you. Which is one of the games main problems, as I'll mention in a moment. And for some inexplicable reason, they've decided to do the cutscenes in 2D, in a style that looks like it was made in Flash, when they have the great 3D engine they used for the rest of the game available to them.
The main idea behind the game is to create realistic movement and allow parkour style movement across city rooftops. Perfect for anyone interested in trying parkour, but with an aversion to breaking their necks. This is where the game excels, allowing the smoothest, most natural feeling movement ever to grace (pun not intended, honest) a first-person game. You pick up speed, vault over boxes, slide under pipes, run along walls and generally get an amazing flow of movement going. When the game lets you, that is. For the first few minutes the game is incredible, as you leap from rooftop to rooftop finding your route from the start to your destination. But it isn't long before the police turn up and start shooting at you, and that's when things start to go wrong. As soon as the guns start firing, you don't have time to actually enjoy the game any more. You can't take the time to look around and plan your route, or just enjoy running around, since you just have to charge through the most obvious path so that you don't die. And if you get stuck, then they'll catch you and kill you, and you'll have to try it again. You can attack enemies, but the combat isn't great and there's very little chance you could take on the vast numbers of the police single handedly. You do have to take out someone in your path at times, and it can be quite satisfying to just knock them down or disarm them by timing your attack correctly. But the combat just seems at odds with the general feel of the game, and takes away everything that makes the free running sections so entertaining.
The game isn't without flaws in other areas either. At times the precision required was rather annoying, as I jumped to grab onto a pipe on the side of a building, only to miss and plummet to my death because I jumped a millimetre too soon. And this probably only affects the PC version, but I had a weird sound issue where the background noise of the city was incredibly loud, and drowned out all other sound, including dialogue. It turned out I had to turn my hardware sound acceleration down in Windows in order to get the sound to work properly. Which has just reminded me that I still haven't put it back to normal. This review will be resumed momentarily. In the meantime, here is some light music.
Ok, now that's done, and I can carry on moaning. Because another major problem of the game is that it is ridiculously short. I'd completed the story mode in 5 hours, and that includes about half an hour trying out the time trials mode. These let you run through the levels from the game in an attempt to get the fastest time possible. You can compare your times in online leader boards, which is the closest you get to multiplayer with this game. Yes, this extends the playing time, if you fancy playing through the same levels again, repeatedly, but there was no real incentive for me to do that. I'd rather have a longer main game, not just be told to play the same stuff again. Especially as Mirror's Edge had the most expensive new PC release price on the shelf.
Which brings me to my rant of the day. And today's topic is: Downloadable Content. You see, when I heard that they were releasing a new pack of time trial levels for Mirror's Edge, I was quite happy. While I didn't have the desire to repeatedly play through the games levels again, some new levels would be very welcome, and the time trial mode would mean no police to dodge, returning the game to the experience it was supposed to be all along. Then I discovered what I should have guessed earlier. They're charging for it. And they're charging £6.99! What an absolute fucking cheek to charge above standard price for a game that's too short in the first place, and then try and make us pay more for stuff that should have been included with the game in the first place. Sod off, EA. I'll wait for it to hit the cheap shelves before I buy one of your games again. This trend of Downloadable Content in general is annoying, since it's meaning game companies are holding back content just so they can sell it later and make even more money instead of just including it with the release. It must be stopped!
Anyway, rant over. Let's be a bit kinder and talk about the graphics. The game uses the Unreal Engine 3, but you'd never guess that, since the levels of Mirror's Edge are the antithesis of the drab greys and browns of most of Unreal engine games thanks to the new lighting system it uses. The city itself is largely white, with large splashes of striking colour in various locations, and the rooms in the interior sections all seem colour co-ordinated in particularly vivid hues. It's quite nice to see a game utilising colour in this way. The environments do often seem rather plain, but it seems to be a design choice to make a statement about the world the game is set in. I'm willing to accept that rather than just assuming the artists got lazy, especially since it does often look very impressive, if only because it's so unique.
Ultimately, Mirror's Edge is a game that did quite a few things right, and certainly had the potential to be a great game, but it has far too many flaws to be ignored. And no, calling the game's theme tune "Still Alive" isn't going to fool us into thinking it's even half as good as Portal was. It's certainly a game worth trying for the sheer originality of the concept, but once you've finished, you can't help but think it was a missed opportunity.
Save System Review: No manual saves, just checkpoints. They're usually fairly well placed, but there were times when I got fed up of replaying the same section again and again as I tried to work out where to go next while avoiding being shot.
Graphics: Simple but effective, with a striking use of colour, Mirror's Edge certainly manages a unique appearance.
Sound: The voice acting is decent and the music is not bad, but nothing really stands out. And if I want to listen to Still Alive, I'll go with GLaDOS every time.
Bugs: An annoying sound problem, but nothing else that I noticed.
Gameplay: It's great when you can build up momentum and let your movements flow into each other, but too often it's spoiled by awkward combat sections and constant police presence.
Storyline: A basic plotline that lacks interest due to never really allowing you to get to know the characters. Their motivations are a mystery. The details of the plot have already faded from my memory. It just didn't grab my attention much at all.
Arbitrary Final Score:
Is the free running enough to hold your interest or does the game need to do much more to succeed? Tell us what you think in the forum!